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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 27: Brown 9
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 26: Kondor 50
At the moment Derek Jacob Brown's nightmare seemed to have taken a turn away from things that go bump in the night to plain ordinary discomfort. He was sitting on soggy ground surrounded by a wet, soppy landscape. It was a swamp, and the sudden sting of a bloodsucking mosquito on the back of his hand reminded him that of all the things he disliked about the outdoors, swamps had most of them.
On the other hand, the sun was shining above the trees, the air was warm, it wasn't raining or thundering. It was as pleasant a day as you could want for being lost in a swamp, if you had to be there. His gear had landed close at hand, a bit wet from the brief moment in the rain of another world and from the soggy earth here, but at least not saturated. He could even see his bicycle a few yards away, although that was sitting in water.
It was clear that getting out of the swamp, if there was a way out of the swamp, meant getting wetter before he got dryer. A good pair of waders would be great right about now; in fact he had a pair of waders in his closet back home. Why didn't they come with him, he wondered? But then, that was obvious–he hated them, he hated having to go on the obligatory father-son fly-fishing trips for which they were intended, and he never used them. He had preferred not to think of them as his. Of course, right now he would have traded a lot of the stuff he did have, like his video games, for those waders. In fact, he would have been very happy right now to wake up and find himself on one of those fly-fishing trips. He missed his father, and his mother, and even his brother. He wanted to wake up, escape the nightmare, and return to life.
It wasn't going to happen just yet, apparently, so he might as well get use to it.
Retrieving the bike, he attempted to repack everything so that the electronic gear would all stay high and dry. His equipment collection was growing–now he had a blanket and a heavy frying pan, souvenirs from the last world, to add to the butcher knife he'd gotten from Montressa. A blanket would be useful if he had to sleep in this place, he thought, and if he found any food he might need a frying pan. However, he didn't have more space. He needed a larger pack or a duffel bag or something. The fry pan reminded him: it had been quite a few hours since he ate, and he didn't have a plan for where he was getting his next meal. Perhaps something would appear.
Finally arranging everything suitably to travel, he now needed to determine where he should go. Swamps were notoriously difficult to travel. You couldn't see far, finding a path of hard ground meant meandering, and it was easy to go in circles and never know it. He had never been lost in a swamp before, but he'd seen it in enough movies to know that he had to think about this better than most movie characters did. After all, there was bound to be a monster in this swamp somewhere–there always was some kind of monster in the swamp in every story, even if it was only a giant mutant crocodile–and it was a race to find a way out before the monster found him.
He decided his best bet was to climb a tree, to see if there was anything besides swamp in sight. He looked around and chose the tallest one close by him, and then made his way up the trunk branch by branch as well as he could. It had been a few years since he climbed a tree, but he thought it was probably something you didn't forget, at least not until you were all grown up when you forgot most things that really mattered.
Climbing a tree proved more difficult and less rewarding than he had hoped. Long before he approached the canopy, the branches began to become tangled with vines and tendrils, and with the branches of other trees. Add to that that his weight had increased, and he was less confident of the branches or the trunk supporting him quite so high. He never did reach the point at which he could clearly see over the surrounding trees.
Still, he did see something. He couldn't say for certain what it was, but in one direction there appeared to be a block of stone rising well above the trees. Maybe it was a building. Maybe it was only a cliff face. As far as he was concerned, a mountain was a better place to be than a swamp. Besides, if he lived here, he would live on the dry high ground, not the marshy low ground, so it made sense that if there were people here, that's where they would be.
Returning to the mud, he put his pack on his back and took hold of his bike, and started in the direction he thought would take him to higher ground.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #82: Novel Developments. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: